Adoption and management of alley cropping in Haiti
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Haiti, a hilly densely populated country, has experienced soil erosion problems for decades. The major impact is a reduction of soil fertility leading to decreasing agricultural productivity. Agriculture, a major sector of the economy, is practiced by limited resource farmers on hillside plots. Early soil and water conservation efforts focused on techniques such as terraces, rock walls, and tree planting. Given the limited success of such practices, alley cropping was introduced as a technique with the capacity of not only limiting soil erosion, but also improving soil fertility. This report assesses the adoption of alley cropping in Gaita and Bannate, two Southern villages within the Camp-Perrin area in Haiti, and is based on a survey conducted on 120 farms. This research evaluates the pattern of adoption and management of alley cropping and examines factors influencing farmers' decision to adopt or not to adopt this technique. Compared to other soil conservation techniques, alley cropping is easy to implement and does not require important financial investment. Results of this study show that farmers with different socioeconomic backgrounds have implemented alley cropping structures on their plots. However, information collected suggests that farmers fail to manage the conservation structures as recommended. Several factors were found to stimulate farmers' decisions to adopt alley cropping in Gaita and Bannate. Group membership, training in soil conservation practices, and per capita income play a significant and positive role. Organized and trained farmers are more likely to develop a positive attitude toward adoption of alley cropping. Those results suggest that efforts to increase adoption should include the participation of local organizations in the development of the programs. Training of farmers should also be an integral part of the program. In terms of training, farmers need to be informed of the environmental benefits associated with adoption of sustainable agricultural practices. Per capita farm household income positively affects adoption of alley cropping. Adoption of alley cropping may be a way for farmers to increase their income. Hedgerow prunings are often used to feed animals instead of being applied to the soil as green manure. A solution to this problem may be to use other tree species with soil regeneration capabilities but unpalatable to animals. However, since animal production plays an important role in the Haitian peasant economy, it is uncertain that farmers will use such species if the system does not also allow them to shift to high value crops. It is also important to consider women's participation in the adoption of alley cropping in Gaita and Bannate. Cultural, social and economic barriers imposed on women by the society did not prevent them from adopting alley cropping. Hence, there is a need for development projects to work particularly with this category of farm operators.